Is Adoption Middle Brow?

Dawn Davenport


GQ Magazine posted an article title “The Middlebrow 50: The People, Places, and Things That Are Neither High Nor Low” and placed adoption as #45 on the list. Middle brow is defined as “mild and inoffensive and more about pretense than progress”.  The following narrative accompanied adoption:

“There’s nothing offensive about wanting to create a better world for a child. It’s also not as noble as it seems. Ultimately, adoption, like all forms of parentage, is about narcissism. Stop being a human hoarder.”


I am posting this as a blog because a couple of people asked me about this article, but they didn’t want to support the magazine by clicking on the site, but wanted to see what it was about.  This allows me to post a screen shot of the page.

What does this even mean?

I’m not exactly sure I understand the premise. I think what he is saying is that adoption has become a status symbol that people do in the same way as driving the latest car or buying the most fashionable purse.  It’s kind of weird that it was posted on the same day I posted a blog on a similar topic –  Is Domestic Adoption the Latest Hollywood Trend? OK folks, what do you think?

For my part, I think there is a huge myth that anyone would go through the rigors of adopting a child as a way of being perceived as hip or holy or anything other than being perceived as a mom or dad.  What do you think?

For those that want to see the rest of the list and don’t mind giving GQ the website hit, you can find it at

Image credit: GQ website

22/07/2011 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 19 Comments

19 Responses to Is Adoption Middle Brow?

  1. Avatar Dawn says:

    Well said Christina!!

  2. Avatar anon wp says:

    aaaaahhhh, that makes way more sense to me now. Thanks!

  3. Avatar anon wp says:

    Sounds like an entire article dedicated to snark and making people react. Such is how GQ chooses to market itself I guess.


    I do think they hit a bit of a nerve in a way. How many times have adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents had people say, “oh, what a wonderful thing you’re doing!” “that child is so lucky”, etc. So it seems there are some people who feel that choosing adoption merits a pat on the back from others, no matter how patronizing or feather-ruffling it is to receive it. Narcissim and self-congratulation are just the flipside to that, and I’m sure there are people who feel superior because they adopted rather than having biological kids, either with or without ART. There’s no one reason why people adopt, so maybe the author is seeing something lurking out there. Or maybe he’s just being obnoxious.

    as an aside, @jo, “fertiles”? ooo boy, I really don’t like that term. I would hate to be called “an infertile” as if we could all be lumped together into a heap for easy categorization.

    …actually, @Dawn, I also have a bit of an issue with infertility described as a “disease”. I honestly do not consider myself diseased. It also seems to imply one root cause, and the causes of infertility are so varied that it seems almost misleading. What am I missing? Is that the formal term these days?

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      anon wp, you’re right that there are many causes of infertility, some of which would not qualify as a “disease”, others would fall squarely in the disease category. The reason I choose to use that term to describe all infertility is to counter the wide spread perception that those who are unable to have children have made life style decisions that have caused them to be infertile, such as postponing child bearing.

  4. Avatar tina says:

    Wow…that is pretty…middlebrow of them to write something like that about adoption. I’d like to say I’m horrified or surprised…but it is a GQ article, and having been on this IF journey, it really is, as Jo said, people who have no idea what they’re writing about writing pronouncements of judgment on us infertiles. Thanks for sharing.

    ICLW #101

  5. Avatar Paula says:

    Ok so may be I was “selfish” when I chose to adopt, if selfish means doing something for ones self. As I really did want to have a child. But my daughter really need a parent, so I guess we’re a good fit. As for hoarding humans.. Hoarding, as Dawn said means to take more than your fair share.. Well I know, personally, children that need adopting so I don’t believe that even if you adopted ten kids you’d be taking more than your fair share.. There would still be plently of kids out there that also really need a home.
    As for the writer and publisher of this article, they obviously don’t have a clue what is going on in the world. Hopefully they will some day and regret writing this. However I doubt they’d be working there any more.

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Paula, I prefer your definition of “hoarding” as taking more than your fair share. Exactly! We have 115,000 kids in the US foster care system that are currently waiting for adoptive parents. There parental rights have already been terminated. They are simply waiting. Please folks, start hoarding!

  6. Avatar Jo says:

    This, to me, seems like much of the media coverage of infertility and adoption: written by fertiles who have no sense of what either is truly like.

    Yes, having children is ultimately a selfish act (MOST of the time. Surrogates/birthparents would be the only exception that comes to mind). But its also a very human instinct that most people can fulfill without too much thought. Why is it that people who can’t are subject to so much more criticism? I don’t get it.


    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Oh Jo, don’t get me started on the insensitivity to the disease of infertility. Suffice it to say, that I don’t get it either.

  7. Avatar Sarah says:

    What a stupid concept! Here are 50 things that are neither good nor bad? And I’m with you, why would someone looking for a status symbol subject themselves to adoption? Certainly not because defending adoption in light of idiotic articles like this is any fun. This is just so dumb on so many levels, thanks for the screen shot so I can avoid patronizing their website. What is it going to take to get the media to approach complex issues with a little more thought than “issue X is good, issue Y is bad, issue Z is in the middle.”

  8. I haven’t read the entire article (and I won’t because I’m not going to give them any more hits), but the whole article sounds ridiculous. Find something actually worthy of writing about, GQ!!!!

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      There really wasn’t much of an article. I quoted everything that had any relevance. It was a slide show of the 50 Most Middlebrow things. For example, VP Joe Biden made the list. The one that really hurt was one of my favorite TV shows-Friday Night Lights-made the list. Guess the pretty well settles it–I’m definitely middlebrow.

  9. Avatar Camille says:

    The entire article is offensive. The part that bothers me the most is the “hoarding” comment. Really?

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Camille, “hoarding” implies the desire to keep more than your share to the detriment of others. How does the typical adoption fit with this word?

  10. Avatar DameCatoe says:

    The kind of people who put adoption on a list like that are the kind of people who don’t actually know anything about adoption. But looking at the number of Facebook likes, tweets and negative comments that slideshow got indicates that most GQ readers thought the whole premise was not worth their time. (When I checked, it had 200+ Facebook likes, which seems like a lot, unless you compare it to their “Douchiest Colleges in America” slideshow, which had 26,000+ likes.) One commenter told them “You guys should probably just delete this one.”

    • Avatar Dawn says:

      Sort of feint hearted praise to say that this article is one step lower than one of “douchiest colleges”. 🙂 However, it is good to see that GQ readers have some sensibilities.

  11. Avatar Gemma says:

    Okay, here you go Dawn! OKAY SERIOUSLY! Are you mother ‘effing kidding me. Sorry but I HAD TO SAY IT. I am so pissed off right now. Why is it okay for people to make these ridiculous comments? Is it okay for me to start making comments oh wow you fell PG after a month, geez man, you are just a baby machine and have zero desire to live your life. BLAH

  12. Avatar Eva says:

    I think the tone is offensive in the narration, but I think there is some truth that becoming a parent is more about an adult’s desire than about the child. That’s a natural, human desire, to be a parent. I think the media will sully anything that sells, but we (as the consumers) are feeding the beast. ^_^

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